Healthcare Triage has just completed a month on opioids (History, Science, Abuse, and Treatment). I admit I’m a little more on edge about them than usual. We were in the midst of production when Governor LePage of Maine made news by vetoing a bi-partisan bill that would allow pharmacists to dispense naloxone without a prescription. When asked to explain his veto, he released a statement:
In a statement explaining his rationale, the Republican governor argued, “Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”
This was not an “out-of-context” remark. It wasn’t a “gotcha” moment. It was a prepared statement, which basically said that naloxone shouldn’t be available because it keeps addicts alive longer until they inevitably overdose.
Naloxone isn’t addictive. It doesn’t give you a high. It can help prevent overdoses and it stops the opioids from doing what they usually do. The Maine state legislature overrode the governor’s veto.
At a town hall recently, LePage doubled down on his beliefs, relating a story:
“A junior at Deering High School had three Narcan shots in one week. And after the third one, he got up and went to class. He didn’t go to the hospital. He didn’t get checked out. He was so used to it. He just came out of it and went to class,” LePage said.
He told the audience that he could support the use of Narcan if someone given the shot would be taken directly to rehab afterward. Instead, he thinks the current approach is ineffective.
“It will kill our society. And we’re gonna lose a whole generation,” he said.
I’m all for addicts getting help. But depriving them of naloxone doesn’t “save a generation”. I don’t understand the anecdote. It gets worse, though. It appears LePage might have made up the story. The school says it isn’t true. They say that the medication isn’t even available in the school nurse’s office.
Further confronted, LePage stood by his story. He told reporters to talk to Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck for verification of the story.
Saruschuck said that the anecdote isn’t true.
There’s a massive opioid epidemic in the US. Addiction isn’t a moral failure, and those who are addicted aren’t lost causes. I’m baffled by all of this, but it’s made worse when it appears that efforts to improve the situation are being thwarted by people who can’t even be bothered to say things that are true.